It's Not What You Say, It's Where You Say It

Last Thursday, June 17th, I went to the California Endowment to hear Professor Pedro Noguera speak on the topic The Trouble With Black Boy: Pedro Noguera on Race Equity and the Future of Public Education. While I do not consider myself to be in Professor Noguera's league intellectually, it became clear while he was presenting his ideas that we both saw eye to eye on what it would take to finally reform public education and the aspects of this failed system that he was focusing on in his talk as they related specifically to Black youth and their continued failure in public education. My epiphany came in the realization that if you talk about what Professors Noguera, Diane Ravitch, Charles Kerschner, Alan Singer, and other academics address in universities as respected academicians, you will be given a six-figure salary, book deals, and consulting jobs, while if you say the same things that these erudite teachers are saying at the K-12 level, you will be put on paid administrative leave at best, to make sure you do not infect others with you ideas, or more likely hounded out of public education altogether.

Today is the last day of school for the 2009-2010 school year and an end to my forced confinement in my home in lieu of being allowed to teach. I would like to use this last regular blog to suggest a working liaison to implement the well-thought out ideas of these professors and the practical day-to-day experience of public school teachers (who in the final analysis must be the vehicle of implementation of real reform). As smart as these professors are, their ivory tower isolation has kept them unaware of one painful reality that will subvert all their insights unless it changes: Entrenched corrupt, politically connected, and incompetent school districts will continue to do more damage than people of good will like Professor Noguera and the others can possibly undo unless he is willing to address his presently limitless energy toward these entrenched dysfunctional public school entities whose own success is clearly antithetical to any real chance.

It is gratifying when one realizes that the educational repository of knowledge represented by these professors, teachers, parents, and students must be rationally organized to confront the ignorance that presently controls public education in this country. These foolish people have substituted slogans for the substantive programs that must be put in place to deal with the reality we face in public education without flinching from the difficult task necessary for all of us to turn it around:

In lieu of wasting any further precious energy in a dialogue with and dictated by public education as presently constituted, we must promulgate an alternative clear and specific plan for public education reform that is well organized and capable of specifically answering all the difficult questions that present public education leadership does not feel it is incumbent upon for them to answer. We have spent a great deal of time on this site talking about difficult issues like social promotion and in order for us to offer a more realistic possibility of success in public education, we need to define a specific process by which we can not only address this and other problems, but which can also offer a real time two-way accountability organizational structure that is able to fine tune these reforms based on data and consequential modifications of what we propose that is independently verifiable. 

Once we have developed this detailed plan of education reform through the liaison of academics, educators, students, and families, we must use it as a political organizing tool to coalesce nationwide support creating an awareness that is presently lacking: We are the majority with a better way of fixing public education based on our daily experiences which is better than presently being offered by those in power who clearly don't have a clue as to what needs to be done.

During the summer, I propose using as the virtual commons that I have talked about before. A place where we can build the reform program that we will move to institute in September. Of course, this process will require that whatever we develop and post must be defensible to all taking part in this process. While the very nature of this democratic process will not allow all ideas to be incorporated as presented, I do feel that if all who taking part in this process have the feeling that their ideas are being heard and honestly considered, they will be willing to give their active support when we put out the final platform at the end of summer based on a democratic deliberation and decision process .

While I will continue posting from time to time over the summer, my plans to spend the summer in the town of Boquete, Panama for 8 weeks in a total Spanish immersion program and the organizing and writing of the detailed organizational platform that I will share with you as it comes together for real public education reform will keep me pretty - and hopefully you - occupied during the summer. If I am able to convince you of nothing else, it is that when all is said and done, we have the power to bring about change, if we allow ourselves to do so.  I hope that you will join me in creating the first-rate 21st century public education system that is the indispensable mechanism to keep our democracy viable.


06 2010


Lenny, I hope you continue in your endeavors. I'm new to your blog, but I've really enjoyed reading it so far. I'd like to take part, if I may. I'm a special education teacher (middle school) in a small Bay Area district. I'll continue to check in to see what's going on here. Keep up the fight. Thanks.


Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I am presently in Boquete, Panama in a Spanish immersion program that finishes August 30th, when I will return to L.A. Given that LAUSD is more than 73% Latino, I felt it was a good way to spend the summer in giving myself the ability to communicate with my Latino students and families by creating the substantive reality of being able to give equal dignity to their culture of origin as a necessary component of defining a future American identity in something more than edspeak platitudes. In addition to increasing my fluency in hopes of making the perdaily site bilingual come September, I also have the time to write some new posts to get a leg up on the necessary grind of putting out 5 blog posts a week during the school year, which brings me to your offer of contribution to the writing task- any insightful articles would be much appreciated in that they would accomplish some of the following goals:
1. It would give me a respite which would allow me to do more in depth stories on public education.
2. It would finally address the cynicism and apathy of educators, which is the greatest hurtle to turning things around and which continues to allow a corrupt and dysfunctional minority to continue to control the agenda for public education.
3. Your help and that of your colleagues would also address the educational establishment's attempt to marginalize anybody who has the chutzpah to say that present public education policies and reforms have no chance of turning things around, while positing a viable alternative.
4. Create an awareness that what is actual necessary to make effective 21st century public education is not that far from realization if we start to work toward it in a pragmatic and rational manner- end social promotion.

It is my hope to use what we do at perdaily to organize educators, parents, and students into the realization that they are the true majority that doesn't have to defer to a corrupt, politically empowered public education administration. Please get in contact and I will share with you and anybody else that is interested the notes I have started to make on what really effective public education should look like. Needless to say, this platform document must be more than just my ideas, if we expect to get rank-and-file support.

Leave a comment